Tuned Out

/ February 13, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Newly appointed Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has had a busy 10 days.

Since taking the reins of the U.S. intelligence community, Blair has gotten up to speed on the slate of current security threats and issued the community's annual assessment report to Congress on Feb. 12, as well as tackling issues such as a nuclear Iran, the spread of terrorist influences in Africa and Latin America and the impact of the ongoing economic crisis on national security.

Suffice to say, the former U.S. Pacific Command chief has little time to watch television.

However, the DNI's viewing habits were the subject of debate when Senate Select Committee on Intelligence member Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) questioned Blair during a Feb. 12 hearing on Capitol Hill. "I'm going to ask you a very different kind of question, but one which I think has enormous consequences both in this country and across the world," Rockefeller said as he began his unusual line of questioning.

Continuing on, the former committee chairman pressed Blair for his thoughts on the Fox Network's fictional spy drama "24," and whether or not the actions of the show's main character, intelligence operative Jack Bauer, glorifies the use of torture as a viable interrogation tool.

In the new season of "24," Bauer has been called to testify before a Senate investigations panel to answer for his use of questionable interrogation tactics to thwart a pending terrorist attack in the United States. During the show's season premiere last month, Bauer threatened to drive a ballpoint pen through an individual's eye, as a means of obtaining the location of a domestic terrorist cell.

Rockefeller noted that West Point Dean Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan tried "to convince the producers of this TV show '24' not to glorify torture," claiming the show was having a "toxic effect" on cadets' training and ethics.

Admitting the show is "celebrated in some circles" for its depiction "of the tough choices that have to be made in the war on terrorism," Rockefeller asked Blair whether he thought the show was an accurate portrayal of the ongoing global war on terror.

Blair's response: "I've never seen an episode of that show, senator, so I can't help you."

For hearing excerpts as well as Blair's prepared testimony, click here.

-- Carlo Munoz